ANALYSISSocial Media

Marketers must reflect on social media as a cause of social exclusion

Social exclusion theory argues that individuals are susceptible to experiencing anxiety at the thought of being excluded from important social groups

LatinamericanPost News

LatinAmerican Post Staff

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Leer en español: Los especialistas en marketing deben pensar las redes sociales como una causa de exclusión social

One of the key developments in the global marketplace that has had major implications for marketers is the explosion in the use of social media by consumers all over the globe to interact among themselves and with marketers. Recent research by digital marketing company We Are Social revealed that at the start of 2017, there were 2.80 billion global social media users, equaling 37% penetration in global social media use. Of this number, almost 600 million were in the Americas—North America (66% penetration), Central America (51% penetration), and South America (59% penetration) 

Social exclusion theory argues that individuals are susceptible to experiencing anxiety at the thought of being excluded from important social groups. Researchers have suggested three primary reasons that groups exclude individuals, including perceptions that individuals are not making sufficient contributions to the group's welfare, individuals not conforming to groups’ rules and norms, and, finally, individuals possessing undesirable attributes (e.g., unattractive physically or personality-wise). Researchers argue that having a social support network and feeling included reduces anxiety, jealousy, loneliness, and depression. Low self-esteem individuals are more likely to perceive threats to inclusion and thus more likely to feel anxious, lonely, jealous, and depressed.

Social exclusion can play an important role in “fear of missing out”, as social exclusion can cause anxiety because it indicates a loss of belonging. “Fear of missing out” is described as the fear that everyone else is having more fun, better jobs, more rewarding experiences, and so forth.

Other research finds that reading stories on social networking sites about friends’ activities, which can cause individuals to feel left out, is linked to negative social and emotional states (e.g., loneliness), although it is unclear whether the user attention is causing loneliness or vice versa. Other researchers have found an association among need to belong, need for popularity, and “fear of missing out”; “fear of missing out” was linked to increased Facebook use. “Fear of missing out” also mediated the relationships between the need to belong and need for popularity, and Facebook use.

Also read: The “opioid crisis” in Latin America is one of undertreatment and suffering

Social exclusion and “fear of missing out” should be seriously addressed as a mental health problem. However, companies should be aware of this issue. Marketers should not focus on this fear as a basis to drive these consumers to use their social media platforms. The focus could then be placed on the behaviors in which consumers engage on social media.

For example, based on the results, when consumers have favorable attitudes toward social media, this influences behaviors such as: sharing companies’ videos, audios, pictures, and messages on social media; recommending companies’ social media platforms to others; uploading brand-related videos, audios, pictures, or images; share a link to a video about a brand; and posting information about experiences with brands on a social media platform. These are behaviors that researchers have classified as active/contributing social media behaviors.

In times when social networks show us that they can cause fear and loneliness, it is important to reflect on relationships. It's not worth having 1 million followers on social networks if we're unable to speak and help others as individuals. The world needs empathy, understanding, and respect – so that the digital connection does not lead to human disconnection and marketers play a key role in this process.

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